Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Summer of Big Decisions

No, I didn't decide to get a Llama.......although was severely tempted at one point because we found a funny boy available on Craigslist and he sounded like a complete charmer.  He was only $50!!  I mustered whatever it is that you must muster at times like that and turned my attention to other matters as quickly as possible - no telling what can happen when there's a big furry critter out there in need of a new place to call home.

But it was a summer of decisions.  Not much posting to this blog happened over the summer kind of on purpose.  I needed time to just be and to reflect on our homeschooling journey to date.  The fall of 2011 would be our third year of schooling at home and I was at a crossroads of sorts.  Truth be told last spring we applied to a local charter school for admission, knowing we wouldn't find out if Max had a spot until after school started in September.  It was a means just to have a different option.  I ended last year more than a little burned out and was reaching for relief outside of myself.  Isn't it easier to look at everything around you instead of everything inside you?  And hey, that school over yonder was looking pretty good to me then!  Here's what I was thinking at the time:

  • I wouldn't be utterly and entirely responsible for Max's education!  Someone else could shoulder it for awhile.
  • I could stop fretting about math demons, those little devils that they are.
  • My time would be more balanced wherein I could pay some attention to all the projects that have been tabled.
  • More time to keep up with the house and yard.
  • A rested mom would make for a happier mom for all concerned parties.
  • Middle school - could I teach middle school curricula?!  Was I up for it?  Some doubts were dancing.
  • Frankly, structure set up by someone else is sometimes just what I need to function best.
  • Perhaps the dogs would get brushed regularly, the cat box would be cleaned more often and good food might occasionally appear on the table.
  • And the BIGEE.........high school.  Probably the crux of what was really reeling about in my noggin of angst.  Committing to stay at home during the middle school years kind of meant that we were signing on the dotted line for high school, too.  

Before you suck in your breath and say, "NO.  SHE DIDN'T!" rest assured that I most certainly DID NOT.  Good thing one can sleep on a pending decision for oh, say, thirty six nights in a row!  I decided to try and take the summer to mull over things quietly in the background.  There were several days when the issue never even surfaced.  There were days when it was at the forefront of most thoughts.  I highly recommend such an approach and applaud you if you are able to actually sit and wait for the answer to work itself out.  My sitting tactics are a little restless.    

It wasn't until the end of August when I felt settled down enough to confirm what was right for our little family of three; and of course, it was exactly what we had begun, what we were already doing.  Homeschooling!  All signs pointed in that direction and I realized all those bulleted points above were coming from a place of fatigue and improper balance of the mommy figure.  A place of selfishness in some ways, fear in others.  It was probably one of the best summers to date since much was ferreted out and learned through it.  

Once I was truly at peace with moving forward on the arc that we had started, I buckled down for two weeks solid and pulled together a philosophy and a plan for 6th grade.  And wouldn't you know it, a week into our 6th grade homeschool adventure which started after Labor Day, the school we had applied to called and offered us a spot.  I turned down the spot with confidence and only a twinge of "what if"!  The summer's mullings showed me once again the whys of homeschooling - why the endeavor is worth it.  So, here's a newly minted bulleted list of a different attitude and perspective:

  • I like who Max is turning out to be.  He's a great kid!  He's kind, has empathy for others, can converse with most anyone, has an eagle eye for detail and he's fun to hang out with.  The ability to stay home probably has contributed to his person hood quite a lot.
  • As one of his biggest fans I am grateful that he can learn differently, that we have the breathing room to experiment on his behalf.
  • Overall our family life has been nothing but graced by the homeschooling gig; it has helped us learn to be better communicators.  It has shown us how to know and appreciate one another.
  • I like being unconventional and bristle at having to follow certain rules.  Freedom is a very big construct for all humans; it is one of my core values and it's dear.  I wish all could experience it on many levels.
  • We can visit the chickens and goats during the day and watch their quirky behavior.
  • Max has a good mix of good friends whom he interacts with frequently.
  • Tailoring the learning to him is becoming more intuitive as I figure us out.
  • He is older now, so I can expect him to be more of an independent learner as we continue.
  • Middle school could quite possibly be the very worst time to throw a kid back into the system!  What was I thinking??
  • What is better than sitting together in the big chair either independently reading or reading together?
  • He is content, has plenty of free time to explore, build or manipulate things.
  • He is free to go pound on his drum set when he feels the need to unleash some music.
  • The rhythm of the day is satisfying; each day is somewhat different, but they all have the same underlying feel to them.
  • I am learning to high tail it out of his way!
  • And the BIGEE for this list:  throwing him into the land of standardized testing, rote memorization, rules and regs just kind of left me nauseous, cold and disheartened.
And oh so much more.  Thank goodness for relatively quiet summers steeped in sun and plenty of think.

Okay, I didn't exactly sit still and let the answer find me lounged in the adirondack chair with an iced tea and plate of chocolate chip cookies,  I went looking for it in a variety of books and ideas, by writing and talking it out some, and by visualizing the alternative.  Along the way many of Charlotte Mason's philosophies found their way to our front door and I soaked them up like a sponge.  More on that later as we are trying on some of her techniques in a secular and modern fashion and are finding them quite likable.

I'm curious to know why YOU homeschool.  What does it mean to you?  Why do you do it?  Do you have days/weeks/years (!) when you just want to toss in the towel?  What keeps you going?  Homeschooling parents are amazing, flexible people! 

With some newly acquired perspective we are starting the year off well.  Things are different in a good and gentler way.  I'll continue to share materials and resources we use and will keep the flavor of the blog focused on keeping the learning fun.

Here's to a terrific year of learning, not to mention the little episodes of wobble that sometimes help to clarify our paths.


  1. Love your post, Vicki! I think it's wonderful that you continue homeschooling your son and you will do so wholeheartedly, after much consideration.

    I have four young kids and never much time for blog hopping or commenting but when I get a chance, I do like to see "what Vicki and Max are up to". I love reading about the cool resources and materials you find (and of course about the chickens and goats, - too bad the llama didn't work out!). Thanks for sharing your cool homeschool finds!

    Your blog is lovely and so is your photography!

    Best wishes to you,


  2. Thanks, Julia - you are a sweetheart for sending such encouraging words! Are you a homeschooling mama as well? I hope you do find some of these resources useful; there is such great stuff out there. We just have to hunt! Good luck to you, too, this year. Thank you for reading the blog!

  3. Yes, Vicki, I am a homeschooling mama as well. My oldest child is 7 and my youngest is only 3 months old and on some days it's quite a challenge to be "in charge" of so many little people, but I am up for it :).

    I just followed up on your recent posts and loved reading about your trip to California.

    Best Wishes,

    P.S. Please forgive me for my awkward English - I am German and English is my second language.

  4. I understood you perfectly, Julia! Does your son speak German as well? Max wants to learn Japanese. I took four years of German in high school, but of course have forgotten so much of it because I didn't use it regularly. We both have time to 'grow into' homeschooling with our children and I'd say we are pretty lucky!


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